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From the monthly archives: November 2008

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'November 2008'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

Privatized Medicare...Higher Cost Not Quality

There's even more evidence this week of just how misguided the Bush administration's privatization of Medicare has been.  Two separate reports detail how private Medicare Advantage plans, created in 2003 by a GOP-led Congress and written by insurers for insurers, have increased the cost and complexity of the program without any evidence of improving care for seniors.  In fact as we have reported, eliminating the outrageous subsidies to private insurers reaping huge profits in MA plans would save $50 billion over the next five years and $150 billion over the next ten years. Not only would eliminating these large overpayments save billions of dollars, it would also add 18 months of solvency to Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund. MedPac, the independent group created to advise Congress, has repeatedly made the same recommendation.  The New York Times has a good summary of these latest reports' findings here.   In one study, Marsha Gold, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research says: 
"Clearly, the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) has expanded choice and the private-sector role. But it also has added to Medicare's complexity and costs and has created potential inequities, without apparent improvements in quality."
 Meanwhile two analysts from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, Carlos Zarabozo and Scott Harrison, report that growth in private plans had driven up costs because the government pays them 13 percent more on average than what it would spend for the same beneficiaries in traditional Medicare: 
"The higher payment rates have financed what is essentially a Medicare benefit expansion for Medicare Advantage enrollees, without producing any overall savings for the Medicare program, and with increased costs borne by all beneficiaries and taxpayers."
Thankfully, the Obama administration and it's new Budget Director nominee, Peter Orszag recognize the folly of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on these insurance industry giveaways and have signaled their interest in eliminating them.

Obama's Promise for Change...What about Social Security and Medicare?

Here is a video we've produced asking the simple question...Now What?

Budget Director Peter Orszag? What would that mean for Medicare & Social Security?

President-elect Obama is prepared to select Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag as his administration's Budget Director, according to the National Journal.   

Orszag has been appropriately praised here in Washington for his clear-eyed perspectives on the economic challenges facing our nation and the role skyrocketing healthcare costs plays in those economic woes.  He's refused to buy the anti-entitlement crowd's strategy of lumping Social Security and Medicare together (even though their challenges are unique) while ignoring the need for nationwide healthcare reform, as a way to justify their "we can't afford entitlements" campaign.  We have referenced many of his speeches and Congressional testimony including here, here, and here.   Most encouraging to us is his refusal to use our current economic mess as yet another excuse to avoid healthcare reform.  Most recently he blogged:  

"Although it may not seem immediately relevant given our current difficulties, it will be crucial to address the nation's looming fiscal gap - which is driven primarily by rising health care costs - as the economy eventually recovers from this current downturn."
On Social Security, Orszag co-authored "Saving Social Security: A Balanced Approach" which suggests reducing Social Security benefits for higher income seniors, raising the retirement age and increasing the taxable wage base.  The New York Times also has an interesting article on Orszag, including a funny exchange he had with CNN's Lou Dobbs 

Medicare Part D Help Available

Enrollment for Medicare's Part D prescription drug coverage begins this weekend, on November 15th.  This year, more than ever, America's seniors must be sure they've analyzed their current Part D drug plan's changes for 2009 and compared them with other prescription drug plans.   A careful review is especially important this year because the average Part D premium increases are the largest seniors have faced since the program began in 2006, and the first time the annual percentage rise has gone into double digits.  One survey reports that nationwide, 2009 premiums are going up an average of about 25 percent and for the 10 most popular plans, premiums will be raised by more than 30 percent. Seniors should be aware that drug plans can change the prescriptions they cover, the co-payments charged, and the coverage rules they use.  To assist seniors and their caregivers confused by the complexity of the drug benefit, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has published the 2009 Part D from A-Z booklet containing answers to frequently asked questions about the drug benefit. The National committee's goal is to help America's seniors and their caregivers make the most educated choice possible as they consider enrollment in Medicare Part D.   Individual copies of the booklet are available free of charge and can be requested by calling 1-800-966-1935 or by visiting the National Committee's website. Some of the topics covered in Part D from A-Z include: 
  • The Medicare Part D Benefit and How it Works 
  • Enrollment 
  • Picking a Plan 
  • How to Use the CMS drug plan finder 

Working to Reform Healthcare AND Medicare

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and eight other national seniors and healthcare advocacy organizations have joined forces urging President-elect Obama and the new Congress to make Medicare a priority in future healthcare reform discussions.  The coalition says:  "Medicare can play a leading role in system-wide reforms that curb the growth in health care costs and make coverage affordable to taxpayers and consumers.  We believe our nation will benefit if affordable, quality, health care is made available to all Americans, and that strengthening Medicare is an integral part of this reform. Medicare savings initiatives that shift costs onto beneficiaries or curtail eligibility, however, undermine the health security of those who rely on Medicare and are counter to the goal of ensuring affordable quality guaranteed health care for all."   A letter outlining the coalition's shared healthcare reform goals was delivered to the White House and Congress today.  This is just the first of the group's ongoing efforts to insure that strengthening Medicare for the millions of current and future beneficiaries is a priority for lawmakers and the President as they consider national healthcare reform.  Coalition members include:  
Alliance for Retired Americans Alzheimer's Association American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Center for Medicare Advocacy FamiliesUSA Medicare Rights Center National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare National Senior Citizens Law Center OWL - The Voice of Midlife and Older Women
And there's another new healthcare alliance recently created: The Alliance to Restore Medicare (ARM) will submit a six-part plan to Congress and the President urging the reversal of the harmful provisions of the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act (MMA).  MMA and its many privatization provisions severely undermine traditional Medicare, endangering not only its survival but also weakening the social insurance model for universal health coverage.  ARM proposes a thorough study of  (1) why the cost of the average patient's care is rising so quickly throughout the U.S. health system, and (2) ways to control costs so that Medicare's financial integrity is ensured and beneficiaries get the health care they need without undue financial stress.  ARM members include:
 American Medical Women's Association American Public Health Association Campaign for America's Future Center for Medicare Advocacy Islamic Society of North America Medicare Rights Center National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare National Senior Citizens Law Center Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) Rekindling Reform Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN) 
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